antiquities-trove-Gianfranco-Becchina-via-wanted-in-rome-1-22-15 Carabinieri officer with uncovered antiquities

The pieces are dated from the 8th century BC to the 3rd century BC and were on display for journalists at the Terme di Diocleziano National Roman Museum.

Head of the Italian military police, Carabinieri General Mariano Mossa said: "This is by a long shot the biggest recovery in history in terms of the quantity and quality of the archaeological treasures."

Sicilian art dealer Gianfranco Becchina and his Swiss wife Ursula Juraschek are at the centre of the ring. Allegedly, the pair are involved in the ring which have acquired antiquities uncovered in southern Italy in illegally carried out excavations. The items were then sent to Switzerland to be restored before being sold with forged provenance documents.

Becchina reportedly sold works to a number of  institutions including the Ashmolean, the Louvre, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum, the Princeton University Art Museum, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. The Getty returned three looted artefacts following the revelations about one of Becchina's associates in 2005.

Investigations began in 1994, Italian police found a photograph of a Paestan red-figure krater by Asteas in the wreckage of a car belonging to the convicted antiquities smuggler Pasquale Camera. The Getty Museum had bought the krater from Becchina.

Then in 2002 Swiss and Italian police seized 140 binders containing over 13,000 documents including shipping records, invoices, and thousands of polaroid photos as part of a raid in Becchina's Basel warehouse and gallery, Palladion Antique Kunst. Later, in 2011 he was convicted for being the middleman in the trade of illegal antiquities, an eviction he appealed, however his archives were still seized by police.

This latest raid could see Becchina be put away in prison.

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